Art Link: “Consider Continuing The Prairie Lifestyle”

While going through some old papers this weekend, I came across a speech given by former Governor Art Link at the 4-H camp near Washburn in the Summer of 1977. Here are some excerpts.

“You, as young people, are the vital and important basis for our state’s future. Your personal growth can certainly have an effect on our state’s future. I hope that each of you will consider remaining in North Dakota, or returning here after completing work or education experiences elsewhere. Many of you in this room will be facing these decisions of future growth in a very short while, if you have not already been involved in such planning.

“You and I share the experiences of a prairie lifestyle. Here in North Dakota our lifestyle has remained relatively simple. The way we live is far less complicated than our big city neighbors. I believe there is more neighborliness here and a greater emphasis on the values which have been important to generations of North Dakotans. You are the future generation of North Dakota and it is now time to begin thinking and talking about the kind of lifestyle which you may want as you enter adult life.

“Here let me make a request of you. You can do much to contribute to North Dakota’s prairie lifestyle. Conversely, what you don’t do can also contribute to our lifestyle. Let me explain.

“I hope that each of you will be responsible stewards of all our state’s and our country’s resources. You have a good start on this through the stewardship emphasized in 4-H. Our nation has unfortunately become one in which bigger always seems to mean better. We use and abuse our resources. Most of us have more than we really need of nearly every commodity, whether it be clothing, food, cars, televisions, or other products. We use the lion’s share of the world’s energy resources.

“As 4-H’ers, I believe you are beginning a firm base of thinking regarding the tools, educationally or otherwise, which can prepare you to contribute to society, rather than setting a list of material goods such as a large house, a large car, and so on.

“Of course we do need some material goods to live comfortably. Good judgment can be utilized in the choices we make about material goods. For example, I would rather see the goal of a young person about to purchase a car, to find the most economical and inexpensive sturdy vehicle suitable to his or her needs, rather than hoping to buy the largest, most gas-consuming, fastest automobile on the road.

“Each of us must become more conscious of the miles of driving we do, for work or pleasure, in the country or in town. We must ask ourselves, is this trip really necessary right now or can this errand or business contact be combined with another and thus save one trip?

“Life will be a continual presentation of choices for each of you. I hope you will make the choices which are most responsible in terms of our global environment. You people must begin thinking in these terms.

“It is important to know that we can take charge, and I underline, take charge, of our own lives.

“It is important to stop and think of the forces working upon us to make decisions. There is the force of advertising, of comparison with our neighbor, and of what other people expect and think of us. However, each of you can take charge of your own life and decide what is best for you.

“By making the correct choices, you can help our state continue to offer a fine quality of life. Each of you can develop standards and self-discipline that will set the patterns for your entire life. Set your goals and standards and stick with them. This is the kind of growth that is positive and can have life-long effects on you. The 4-H organization is providing you with important experiences and information to facilitate positive growth.

“I indicated to you that you are growing with our state. In 12 years, North Dakota will celebrate its 100th birthday.  We are a very young state, not even a century old. Through the North Dakota 100 Program, my administration has been involving citizens of the state, through survey and committee means, in planning for North Dakota’s second century. This kind of citizen input and contribution for our second 100 years is vital.

“You can have a lot to do with what our state will be like for its second century. You and your children will be the beneficiaries of what we plan now.

“Now, on an individual basis, I ask that each of you take charge of your own lives. I urge you to make your decisions based on what is best for you as an individual, and not as a robot molded by the television tube or other people’s tastes.

“I ask that you consider continuing the prairie lifestyle we enjoy in North Dakota by being less consumptive and more supportive of the environment in which we live.”

That was Governor Art Link. Can you imagine any current or recent Governor giving a speech like that?

2 thoughts on “Art Link: “Consider Continuing The Prairie Lifestyle”

  1. I was Art’s Chief of Staff during his term in the House of Representatives in Washington. Little has ever been written about his outstanding work in the House. So many good stories about his work on the House Agriculture Committee and his work on the House District of Columbia Committee remain untold. As the House Speaker at that time,
    Carl Albert (D-OK) said, “Art, in over three decades in the House you’re the first I’ve ever known who asked to serve on theDistrict Committee”. Why, one may ask? I know I did. Art said simply, “I represent one of the most rural districts in the country and I wish to set an example to show that rural people can understand urban issues”. He set the example. I believe the entire Black Caucus and dozens of urban members supported the farm bill when it passed the House, thanks to work by members such as Representative Link.
    Unless some of these stories are told, the Art Link story is incomplete.

    Best to you, Jim.

    Wally Rustad


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